The 30th of September marks a very special day in Botswana and is known locally as Boipuso. It was this day 45 years ago that the then named Bechuanaland gained its independence from Britain; becoming the beautiful country of Botswana that we know today. Botswana is one of Africa’s gems and has a very unique and encouraging story behind it.
Botswana is one African country which was never colonised by Britain. It was however a British Protectorate due to instability in the region in the late 1800’s. Back in 1966, things probably looked very grim for the new nation. Faced with a very low literacy rate, very few university graduates, lack of infrastructure, 70% dessert land and being one of the world’s poorest countries, there was very little that the world expected of Botswana.
That is until the discovery of diamonds. Diamond mining, a third of GDP, has propelled Botswana’s development forward into the 21st century. Botswana now has an adult literacy rate of over 83%. Where there were less than 3 miles of tarred roads in the early 1970’s, Botswana now boasts having over 26,000 km of road. To put it into perspective, it took 2 to 3 days to travel between the 2 largest cities, Gaborone and Francistown. Today, you can make the journey in 3 and a half to 4 hours.
Although Botswana is now the world’s largest diamond producer, maintaining one of the world’s highest growth rates, the government has made a concerted effort to diversify the economy. Through initiatives such as the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency (CEDA) Botswana now has budding entrepreneurs amongst young people driving forward local production, farming, manufacturing and emerging creative industries. The Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) is another great government mandated organisation which creates an international platform for locally produced textiles.
There are many great things to celebrate about Botswana, as well as areas to improve such as the plight of some of the world’s most ancient civilisations in the Basarwa Bushmen and tackling an HIV infection rate as high as 1 in 3.
There are other things to talk about too. For instance how the country celebrates Boipuso. 30 September is a public holiday and the government virtually cooks for the entire population. Citizens can enjoy a meal consisting of the traditional Seswaa and a cold drink. I think my next post may just be a recipe from Botswana… naturally afrocentric food!